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*** LUCY PEARL, "Lucy Pearl"; Pookie Records/Beyond Music

May 21, 2000|NATALIE NICHOLS

The gently insistent funk of the hit single "Dance Tonight" is one of those sounds that carries the promise of summer, with all the accompanying possibilities for heady, sweaty romance. The song's overheard-conversation vocals and generally celebratory vibe are the hallmarks of the casual groove being worked by this modern R&B supergroup of Raphael Saadiq (Tony Toni Tone), Dawn Robinson (En Vogue) and Ali Shaheed Muhammad (A Tribe Called Quest).

Most of the 15 tracks on this debut collection revolve around the usual themes of wanting, and getting, some of that sweet love, with such diversions as a bad-old-days reverie ("Remember the Times") and a laid-back manifesto ("They Can't"). Yet even the most basic of beggin' tunes ("Ask of You") becomes imaginative, thanks to the trio's playful blending of soul, funk, rap and rock elements with a feeling of almost voyeuristic intimacy.

This is accomplished in part by Saadiq's and Robinson's deliberately offhand vocalizing, whether trading testy lines about a mom-derailed relationship in "Can't Stand Your Mother," or offering innuendoes about their respective heart's desires. The effect is sexy and fun, in the neighborhood of such contemporaries as D'Angelo or Maxwell, but more like hanging out on the street than cocooning in the boudoir. Lucy Pearl will be at the House of Blues on June 4.

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums will be in stores on Tuesday.

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